Santo Domingo Journals

Legacy Lullabies: Rocking the New World's Cradle

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A December 2004 trip to Santo Domingo by Jose Kevo

In Ruins Photo, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic More Photos
Quote: Charged with Firsts and Worsts of the Western World, Santo Domingo is usually one of those places to avoid. Finally returning just for the fun of it exposed some unexpected adventures. But as always, the best thing about coming here was when it was time to leave.

Legacy Lullabies: Rocking the New World's Cradle

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Overview

In Ruins Photo, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Quote:
Work vs. Pleasure Past experiences in Santo Domingo had always been tainted as work-related trips, wrangling with bureaucratic consulates and topsy-turvy local government agencies while trying to help Spanish Harlem families. Even after adopting DR as my second home, trips to the capital had always been for quick emergencies until now. Wailing from growing pains, trying to keep up with almost 4 million inhabitants, there's no reason to base travel from here unless it’s business-related, but playing tourist for a couple of days chanced more surprises than even I bargained for. Predating Memoirs… ...Read More

Hotel Independencia

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Hotel

Hotel Independencia Photo, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Quote:
No matter how many self-promises have been made to find better accommodations, returning to Hotel Independencia is like indulging a bad habit. Years since needing a place to stay, either expectations had changed or effort really had been put forth in one of the capital’s few budget hotels. Much to my enlivenment, Independencia was about the only place/thing in the country that had somehow sidestepped price increases. A room with private bath still cost RD450/$15 a night, just like back in the late ‘90s and even during the holiday season! This was compared to the highly touted, budget-friendly Hotel Aida asking RD1,200/$40 for a night on nearby Calle Conde. Check first to see if In...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on March 23, 2005

Hotel Independencia
Calle Estrellata 265
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
(809) 686-1663

Santo Domingo Dining

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Restaurant | "Dining in General"

Santo Domingo Dining Photo, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Quote:
Going hungry in Santo Domingo is hard to justify, though encountering numerous homeless people in the streets has a way of redefining famished. Dining opportunities are limitless regardless of tastes, whether recognizable fast-food chains or "high-end feasting" rarely exceeding RD6,000/$20. Some of my first finds around Zona Colonial have remained favorites, which are close to Hotel Independencia and have budge prices to boot. Sandwiches dominate most breakfast menus. Dumbo's, on Calle Nouel, in the same block as the hotel, is a counter-top eatery serving...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on March 23, 2005

Santo Domingo Dining
Throughout La Zona Colonial
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Los Tres Ojos

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Attraction

Los Tres Ojos Photo, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Quote:
Predating Santo Domingo by thousands of years, Los Tres Ojos are three open-air limestone sinkholes obscurely shrouded in forest across from eastern border of Parque Mirador del Este. Excursion buses stopping on their way to/from the capital have turned this natural highlight into quite the tourist trap, evident by the large parking lot on the northeast corner off the highway and swarms of vendors waiting to pounce on new arrivals. A very steep staircase plunges into an unforgettable Land of the Lost, a strenuous workout far from over with the multiple levels of vantage points for exploring the first cave. A verdant forest has thrived in the terrarium-like environment dank w...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on March 23, 2005

Los Tres Ojos
Av. Las Américas
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
+1 809 472 4204

Faro a Colón

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Attraction

Faro a Colón Photo, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Quote:
Years since appearing on the western edge of Parque Mirador del Este, the monument honoring Christopher Columbus's voyages is still one of the most controversial landmarks in all of the Western World he discovered. At a cost of US$200 million, Faro a Colón is a haphazard blemish, looking like a cap-sized cruise ship blown ashore during hurricane season! What the seven-story museum supposedly features, compared to what you'll actually find, is almost as pitiful as nearby impoverished residents concealed behind barriers so visitors don't have to see them. The entry facade contains relevant scripture and...Read More

Member Rating 2 out of 5 on March 23, 2005

Faro a Colón
Av. Estados Unidos
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
+1 809 591 1492

Acuario Nacional de la República Dominicana (National Aquarium)

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Attraction | "The National Aquarium"

Acuario Nacional de la República Dominicana (National Aquarium) Photo, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Quote:
With potential for being a top attraction, the National Aquarium unfortunately showcased what makes Dominican travel experiences so questionable at times regarding what's considered acceptable or priority. The aquarium is built around several open-air wings housing various sized tanks, but the major downfall was overall cleanliness. Heavy residue buildup from murky waters hindered visibility. While some of the cleaned displays were further illuminated by the overhead sun piercing crystal-clear waters, most were extremely dirty. The biggest attraction, containing sharks and large fish, was in such need of desperate cleaning, as there was no viewing what might be swimming around from main-...Read More

Member Rating 2 out of 5 on March 23, 2005

Acuario Nacional de la República Dominicana (National Aquarium)
Av. España No. 75 Sans Soucí
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
+1 809 766 1709

Gua-Gua Safari to the Zoo

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Attraction

Gua-Gua Safari to the Zoo Photo, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Quote:
Waiting to cross the ever-buzzing parkway where Zona Colonial's pedestrianized El Conde ends in front of Puerta del Conde, zoológico caught my attention as a listed destination on signs displayed in front windows of buses. There was the challenge of freedom, baptized in cheapness and philandered with potential once checking out of hotel and returning to the same spot. With years spurting around Santo Domingo, taxis had always been a cocksure choice. Any foreigner that has ever stood along the loop encircling El Parque Independencia has likely been just as dumbfounded by perpetual traffic dominated by beat-up cars, vans, and buses known as públicos and gua-guas...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on March 23, 2005

Gua-Gua Safari to the Zoo
From Zona Colonial to the Zoo
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Nacional Zoo - Gringo Without a Cage

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Attraction | "Gringo Without a Cage"

Nacional Zoo - Gringo Without a Cage Photo, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Quote:
After paying the RD30/US$1 admission, there were no signs or maps for what awaited in the Nacional Zoo. A fork in the road headed into rolling hills of tropical forest, and the only clue was trailing a lady and four children off to the right. A good quarter-mile walk, passing random cages of birds, leads to what's definitely a hidden attraction. Santo Domingo's zoo is more tranquil and tame than anything you'll find on city streets! A rather strenuous course thoroughly covers the large park passing through expansive, open-air enclosures where wildlife viewing is up-close and natural. Even more surprising than cleanliness within the garden setting was that animals appeared healthier, and ...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on March 23, 2005

Nacional Zoo - Gringo Without a Cage
Northern outskirts of the city.
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Shopping

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Attraction | "Bang-for-your-Buck Shopping"

Shopping Photo, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Quote:
Santo Domingo has abundance of anything travelers could possibly want to haul home. Knowing where and how to shop can save a pocket full of pesos because prices on goods have also more than doubled. Most organized excursions include a shopping spree at Mercado Modelo on Avenida Mella, and for good reason. The congested emporium is a plethora of mass-produced and unique Dominican artifacts guaranteed to please. The market has a reputation for being a pickpocket's haven, and while I've never had reason to suspect problems, clutching backpacks in front is still a good idea to keep from bulldozing through narrow confines. Sales clerks are eager without being pushy; their Caribbean color fur...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on March 23, 2005

Shopping
Around the Zona Colonial
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Birthplace of the Americas

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Story/Tip

Above and Beyond Photo, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Quote:
The majority of travelers visiting Santo Domingo have crawled out of bed early at some resort and had time to raid the continental breakfast buffet before boarding a luxury bus. Some will ride more than 4-hours one-way; trading beach for questionable encounters in the white man's first official city of the Western World. On any day of the week, excursion groups fill la Zona Colonial, which still pulses 500+ years later as heart of the metropolis. Whether huddled in guided clusters or roaming freely, I've always wondered what people really see, think, and feel, and what would ever make anyone want to return? There was a common sentiment in NYC about not recommending Santo Domingo t...Read More